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Fun + Festive Candy Pretzel Sticks

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Looking for ways to keep kids busy during the holidays? This tasty treat is easy for little hands to make – and they don’t require the same dexterity decorating rolled sugar cookies with frosting and candy requires. They make sweet and salty treats that are fun for kids to package up and share with their friends.

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Pick up some chunky pretzels, and melt a small bowl of chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips – or pick up a tub of frosting and warm it for about 20 seconds in the microwave, until it’s a dippable consistency.

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Set out bowls of coloured sugar, sprinkles and small candies and let kids dip first in chocolate or frosting, then in sprinkles and candy; set aside on a parchment-lined sheet until set. That’s it! Fun, festive candy sticks for all!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

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‘Tis the season to warm up with a mug of hot chocolate – we like to mix up a big batch of our own, rather than rely on packaged instant hot chocolate, to stir into warmed milk throughout the winter. It’s also an easy thing for kids to measure and stir together – no chopping or heat required – to package up and give to their friends, relatives, even teachers and coaches to say thanks during the festive season. All you need is some good cocoa, powdered sugar (which will dissolve more easily than regular sugar) and a handful of mini marshmallows. Set the kids up with some markers to make labels, and your holiday gift giving is halfway done!

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Chocolate-ginger Molasses Crinkles

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‘Tis the season for holiday cookies, and this year these chewy Chocolate-ginger Molasses Crinkles have become one of our go-to recipes for Christmas cookie exchanges. They’re easy to make, fun for kids to roll in sugar, and combine warm cinnamon and ginger with deep chocolate flavour. The recipe makes over 2 dozen, so there’s enough to package up and give away, plus a few to nibble on! Cookies are also perfect for teachers, coaches and other people kids want to thank at this time of year.

Make sure you don’t overbake these; they need to stay chewy. They should be set around the edges, but still soft in the middle – they’ll firm up as they cool.

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Bacon Jam

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We love a good bacon jam — it’s so easy to make in the slow cooker. Make a batch over the holidays and serve it with baguette slices as an easy party food and then spread the leftovers on a flatbread crust for a pre-Christmas pizza night. Read More

Russian Tea Cakes

It’s holiday cookie season! This is one of our annual must-haves – Russian Tea Cakes, otherwise known as Mexican Wedding Cakes or in our house, Mom’s Nut Balls. They’re bite-sized shortbread balls made with finely chopped pecans or almonds (some even use hazelnuts), rolled in icing sugar while they’re still warm, which creates a sort of buttery frosting on the outside. Whatever you call them, they’re irresistible – and look delicious on a cookie tray, or bundled up in cellophane and tied with ribbon to give as a gift. Since they last well and are nice and compact, they’re also perfect for cookie exchange parties – it’s one of my go-to recipes.

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Best of Bridge Hamburger Soup Slow Cooker Style

Best of Bridge Hamburger
This slow cooker version of one of the most popular Bridge recipes of all time is just as easy and just as delicious as the classic. And (sacrilege!) we’ve phased out the can of cream of tomato soup. But not to worry, we’ve also included instructions on doing it the much loved, old-fashioned way if you’d still like to use the  tomato soup. 

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Our Family Slow Cooker Book Tour!

Our newest book (and the first with the new trio of ladies), The Family Slow Cooker hit stores at the beginning of October and to celebrate, we hit the road to preach the virtues of slow cooking. A couple dozen TV appearances (in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Toronto), radio interviews, and print media stories later, we’re back at home (in Calgary for Elizabeth and Julie – and Vernon for Sue) looking back at pictures of our book tour adventures. Here are some photos of highlights we hit along the way:

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Sue and Julie kicked off the tour making some pulled beef at BT Vancouver – they’re SO much fun here! Always a blast.

 

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Chocolate Caramel Pecan Upside-Down Cake

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Elizabeth and Julie appeared on Your Morning in Toronto on Friday, talking about desserts you can make in your slow cooker – recipes from the new Family Slow Cooker cookbook, which is in stores now! We made coffee pots de creme, using the slow cooker in place of the usual bain marie (hot water bath), to ensure a moist, gentle heat, but we also had our Chocolate Caramel Pecan Upside Down Cake on display – a gooey treat that bakes up perfectly in the slow cooker – and slides right out, after it’s done! 

The edges of the pecan layer will get chewy, the center stays softer. This cake will make a lot of people happy!

 

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Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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If you find yourself with leftover pumpkin puree this season, here’s a cake for you. A moist, delicately spiced cake slathered with cream cheese frosting – not too much, we went with the exposed sides look – that’s perfect for this time of year. And the layers freeze well, so you can pack them away for the holidays. As a bonus, frozen cake layers are easy to frost, with minimal crumbs!

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Almond and Cherry Granola

Almond and Cherry Granola
Slow cooking makes it easier to avoid burnt granola than with traditional oven versions
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup whole almonds 250 mL
  2. 5 cups large-flake (old-fashioned) rolled oats 1.25 L
  3. 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 250 mL
  4. 1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar 125 mL
  5. 1⁄4 tsp salt 1 mL
  6. 1⁄4 cup butter 60 mL
  7. 1 tbsp vanilla 15 mL
  8. Nonstick cooking spray
  9. 1 cup dried tart cherries 250 mL
Instructions
  1. Coarsely chop almonds, aiming to cut each almond into only 2 or 3 pieces (so they won’t burn as easily).
  2. In a large bowl, combine almonds, oats and coconut. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together brown sugar, salt and butter. Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Drizzle butter mixture over oat mixture, tossing until everything is well combined and evenly coated.
  3. Spray the bowl of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Pour in the oat mixture. Cover and cook on high for 30 to 60 minutes or until granola is hot throughout. Stir and cook, uncovered, on high for 1 to 11⁄2 hours, stirring every so often so the edges don’t get too brown. Toward the end of the cooking time, you’ll need to stir more often. Once everything is a couple of shades darker, stir in cherries. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and let cool completely. Store in a glass jar at room temperature for a few weeks. Makes about 8 cups (2 L).
Notes
  1. Tip: The granola will toast a little faster if you push it up against the side of the slow cooker, leaving a well in the middle.
  2. Variations: Granola adapts well to almost endless variations. Try pecan halves or whole hazelnuts in place of the almonds, or other dried fruits, such as cranberries or chopped dried apricots, instead of the tart cherries. You can even add chunks of dark chocolate to the finished (and completely cooled) granola.
  3. “A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.”
  4. — P. J. O’Rourke
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  2. 2 to 3 green onions, chopped
  3. 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1 garlic clove, crushed
  5. 2 tsp grated fresh ginger 10 mL
  6. 1⁄2 cup hoisin sauce 125 mL
  7. Butter or leaf lettuce leaves
Instructions
  1. Combine chicken, green onions, red pepper, garlic, ginger and hoisin sauce in the bowl of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or until chicken is very tender.
  3. Shred the chicken with two forks. Serve in a bowl, with lettuce leaves alongside to fill, wrap and eat.
Notes
  1. Serves 4 to 6
  2. Variation
  3. Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps: Ditch the ginger and swap 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) Buffalo-style hot pepper sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot) and 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) butter for the hoisin sauce.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Christmas Marmalade

Christmas Marmalade
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium oranges
  2. 2 lemons
  3. 11⁄2 cups cold water 375 mL
  4. 1 bottle (6 oz/170 mL) preserved ginger
  5. 6 cups granulated sugar 1.5 L
  6. 1 bottle (6 oz/170 mL) maraschino cherries, drained and chopped (add extra green cherries as well — colorful!
  7. 1 pouch liquid pectin
Instructions
  1. Wash oranges and lemons. Slice paper thin. Discard seeds. Put into large kettle. Add water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes, until rinds are tender and transparent. Stir occasionally.
  2. Drain ginger, saving syrup. Chop ginger finely. Add sugar, chopped ginger, ginger syrup and cherries to orange-lemon mixture. Turn heat to high and bring to a full, rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Continue stirring and skimming for 5 minutes.
  3. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch (0.5 cm) headspace. Wipe rims and seal with two-piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes. Check seals and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed.
  4. Makes about ten 8-oz (250 mL) jars.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Broccoli Cheese Soup

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Need something quick, warming, and full of veggies for dinner this busy holiday season? Broccoli-cheese soup is always well received at our house – and it’s a great way to use up a bunch of broccoli that may be starting to get droopy. For a vegetarian version, swap vegetable or onion stock. It’s simple to chop the broccoli (cauliflower would work well too – or a combination of the two) and toss everything into a pot to simmer when you get home from work and school. By dinnertime it’s ready to puree – use a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot – and serve with crusty bread or cheese biscuits. Comfort food for busy, chilly days!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
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Ingredients
  1. Vegetable oil, for cooking
  2. 2 Tbsp butter
  3. 1 small onion, chopped
  4. 1 carrot, chopped
  5. 2 celery stalks, chopped
  6. 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
  8. 4 cups chicken stock
  9. 4 cups broccoli florets
  10. 1 cup half and half cream
  11. 1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. In a medium pot, heat a drizzle of oil along with the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for 4-5 minutes, until soft.
  2. Add the flour, season with salt and pepper and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the chicken stock and broccoli and bring to a simmer; cook for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is very tender.
  3. Add the cream and puree with a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot. Add the cheese, let sit for a minute, and puree again until smooth. (Alternatively, puree in batches in a blender.) Season with salt and pepper, if it needs it. Serves 6.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/